"Does that mean you'll give me the money?" David looked up at Maddie, trying not to notice her nightgown strap sliding provocatively down her arm.
Maddie shook him, causing the rogue strap to slide a bit further; the lace facing on the gown gaped slightly. David did his best to focus on what she was saying. "No, David, you don't need the money. Didn't you see the newspaper ads? Everything's fine. Taken care of. You're free!"
"Free?" he said. His confusion was swiftly replaced by shock. "Maddie—did you pay off the police?" He shook his head. "I didn't think you had it in you."
"No, you idiot. I cracked the case!" Maddie pushed against his wet chest, scooting backward on the carpet.
David sat up, rubbing his stubbly chin. "You cracked the case?"
"Is that so hard to believe? Yes, I did! It was Mr. Everett 's slippers—they were facing the wrong way…"
"His slippers? Let me get this straight: no more trains, no more dogs, no more beans—all because of slippers?"
Maddie looked at him, seeming to take pity on his disheveled and bewildered state. Or maybe she was just worried about the carpet. "Why don't you take a shower?" she suggested.
He stood up a little shakily. "Yeah… a shower."
"You remember those—hot water, a lotta steam… soap?" she grinned.
David knew there was a comment to make—something full of innuendo—but he couldn't quite think of it. He was still a little overwhelmed by his apparent deliverance… not to mention that damned nightgown, now flowing silky-soft around Maddie's curves as she stood up.
"I'll go make us some coffee," she said, swinging her robe around her shoulders.
"Uh, Maddie? I don't exactly have anything else to put on. Forgot to have the Ritz send over my luggage."
"I'm sure I can find you something. We can put your clothes in the laundry… unless you'd rather burn them?" With a wry smile, she left the room.
Maddie stood in front of the coffeemaker, her thoughts in a whirl. David was back—and not only was he back, he was here. In her house. In the middle of the night. And, she realized, hearing the water turn on above her—naked. She swallowed hard.
She felt, for some reason, like she needed to make a decision. After the garage, after tackling him onto the floor… they couldn't just go back to the way things had been, could they? Though maybe that was best. After all, what did she feel for David? What could she feel? They had nothing in common. He was not at all what she imagined when she pictured her "ideal man": tall, chiseled good looks, educated, cultured, successful.
Not that she had ever come close to meeting such a paragon. At least not one that made her pulse race and her senses sharpen. Unfortunately, the men she had encountered who looked good on paper had one additional quality: they were boring. Educated, cultured, nice, safe—and boring.
Maddie thought back over the last year. Ever since she first walked into David Addison's office, she had found herself doing totally unexpected, totally crazy things. Hanging off a clock. Gambling in a foreign country. Playing Agatha Christie on a train. And placing ads addressed to fugitives in the newspaper.
Maddie had always lived her life to a steady beat: controlled, regular, rational. Even in her modeling days she hadn't participated in the wild hedonism that ruined the lives of so many of her peers. She had her parents, and her strong Midwestern upbringing, to thank for that. No, she had been careful: careful with her body, careful with her money, and careful with men.
Well, there had been a few. The middle-aged photographer who fancied himself a Svengali, molding her into the perfect image for his lens. Her requisite "bad-boy" experiment, a fellow model with long hair, a motorcycle, and a profound disdain for the law.
But David wasn't any of these things. He wasn't a cardboard "ideal," certainly wasn't a Svengali (though sometimes she did wonder, when she suddenly found herself converted to his point of view). And, she realized, he wasn't a "bad boy" either. Childish at times, yes, overfond of the limbo, definitely—and occasionally, too willing to set aside scruples for a paycheck. She knew, too, that he had a reputation in the office as a roving Casanova, but she suspected this was more image than reality.
That was the thing about David, though. He infuriated her: his immaturity, his bad puns, his constant amusement at her. But just when she was at her boiling point, just when she felt like she couldn't take another minute of Addison's antics, he showed a totally unexpected tender side.
He had come after her, all the way to Buenos Aires, because he didn't want her to face her swindling accountant alone. He was almost as devastated as she was when he told her that her father was having an affair. What touched her the most, though, was when he admitted he had prayed for her. She remembered his initial horrified reaction: he couldn't believe that she didn't believe. Still, he had interceded with his God—"put in a good word for her"—for her unbelieving soul.
Bottom line: he cared. He CARED. When was the last time someone had really cared about her? Not her looks, not her money… just her.
So, the garage.
Maddie could remember standing there, watching him walk away, feeling inexplicably bereft—way beyond losing a business partner or even a close friend. Like a huge hole was opening in her life… like she would be completely alone… like her chance for happiness—for joy—for fun—would go underground with him.
And then he kissed her.
Or maybe she kissed him.
Whatever. It was the fiercest, most intense experience of Maddie's life. Her whole self was focused on the sensations of that moment. His lips, hard and demanding, against hers; his hands on her back; the feel of his collar as she ran her fingers inside it. Her cool, guarded, fastidious self evaporated; she wanted to tear off his stained, smelly clothes, to roll around with him on the dusty concrete.
But it went beyond the physical. All the romantic clichés—seeing stars, being struck by lightning, the earth moving—joined forces. She felt something pass from her, through him, and back again. She would have said their souls connected, except that she didn't think she believed in souls.
Then it was over. She was frankly surprised to find herself still standing, still in that dingy garage. When she said, breathlessly, "What was that?" she wasn't just talking about the kiss, but the universe of totally unprecedented feelings roiling inside her.
She had half-expected—hoped—he would just kiss the living daylights out of her again. But he hesitated, and she had too much pride, and too much fear, to confront what had happened. She watched him walk away with everything still hanging in the air between them.
She made it all the way to her office before she burst into tears.
So, what happened now? He was back. He was here. In her house. Et cetera… though since she couldn't hear the shower anymore—probably not naked.
She shook herself, realizing that the coffeemaker was open in front of her, still unfilled and un-percolating. Hearing David on the stairs, she tried to make a choice: confront him? Confess her feelings? Let it go? His footsteps sounded on the tile behind her. She took a deep breath and turned around.
And burst out laughing.
David stood under the shower. He had never been so grateful for extremely hot water forced through extremely small holes. He wasn't especially picky about his personal hygiene, but the three-day layer of grime that had settled on his skin disgusted even him.
As the scalding water pounded on his back, he thought about the woman downstairs in the kitchen. Maddie Hayes. He'd never met anyone like her. She was a study in contrasts: her blue eyes, icy one moment and fiery the next; the glamour and grace which seemed to sit so easily on her but must have taken years to perfect. And so beautiful, like an angel… but with the devil's own temper. He hadn't known doors could be slammed so hard.
The first time he saw her, she strode into his office like she owned the place—which, it transpired, she actually did. David had dismissed her, figuring her for just another blonde, one he could beguile into supporting the agency in the manner to which it had become accustomed.
It wasn't that he had no direction, or that he was lazy. Far from it. In the pursuit of fun, David could be single-minded and driven. After years of struggle, tending bar and living in downscale apartments, he had found this detective gig. It seemed to fit him perfectly: get decent pay for little or no work, be his own boss, and act like a benevolent lord of the manor to his underlings. Also, it allowed him plenty of time for his favorite hobbies—poker and pretty girls.
This pretty girl seemed immune to the Addison charm, however. Right away, she showed considerably more intelligence, not to mention more spirit, than he had given her credit for. She was brave and quick, and she threw a mean right hook. The fact that she had called him a "sissy fighter" still rankled.
She intrigued him and, he had to admit, attracted him. But better than that, she challenged him like no one ever had. Before he met Maddie, he had earned his reputation as "love 'em and leave 'em Dave." He himself had been left twice, and he didn't like it. It was a lot easier just to have a little fun and get out before things got messy.
But Maddie was different. She had always been there: even when she was mad as hell, she still stuck around, whether it was to unhook his hungover carcass from the back of the door or to sit up with him all night, guarding a dead body—on her birthday. Maddie was someone he could rely on.
And she cared about him, he had no doubt about that. Even when she yelled at him, even when she accused him of living in a pen or swinging on a vine. In fact, sometimes he thought she got so angry because she cared, because she wanted him to be a better man. Her determination pushed him to work harder, and sometimes in the course of their arguments, he found out more about himself than he did about her.
Then there was the garage.
It had just about killed him to think he was saying goodbye to her. In fact, he had barely been able to force himself to leave her house the night before. She hadn't berated him, hadn't blamed him; instead, she told him it wasn't his fault. The softness of her, sitting there in silk pajamas with tears in her eyes…
He knew he had to go, for her safety as much as his own, and he didn't usually believe in melodramatic partings. But in the garage, he found he couldn't just turn his back on her. Instead, he walked away backwards, trying to imprint her gorgeous face on his memory.
She said he smelled awful, and then suddenly she was in his arms. He was kissing her, and she was kissing him—God, was she kissing him! David had never thought much of kissing, except as a prelude to something else, but this… He felt like he poured all his anxiety, all his fear, definitely all his sudden surging passion into that kiss. Every scrap of himself, everything he hadn't even realized he had hoped for.
They broke apart, and he felt winded. He wasn't even sure at first what she had said; he saw her mouth moving but couldn't make any sense of it. When he realized what she was asking, when he realized she was analyzing, instead of feeling, he almost couldn't stand it. It physically hurt him to have been so close to her, only to fall back into carping at each other.
He made it to the alley on the side of the building before slumping down, his head in his hands.
And now he was here, in her house. She had seemed so happy to see him, so thrilled that he would be free. But if he took her in his arms, would he get passion or sarcasm? He tried to picture the scene: Maddie, wearing that practically edible lace nightgown. And he would be wearing—
"I'm sorry," Maddie giggled, fingers pressed against her lips. "It was all I could find."
David leaned against the doorjamb, conscious that he looked fairly ridiculous in Maddie's peach velour tracksuit. The legs and arms were too short, his shoulders strained the seams, and a thatch of chest hair poked incongruously out of the zippered jacket. At least his filthy fugitive-wear had the advantage of being masculine.
"If it's that funny, maybe I should take it off," he remarked, with an edge to his voice.
"Addison!" Maddie said in mock horror. She tilted her head, considering him. Yes, he looked ridiculous—but somehow still sexy. His eyes had lost that hunted look and a bit of their sparkle returned as he gazed across the kitchen at her.
"Tough job," he nodded at the silent coffeemaker.
"Oh—I—uh…" she stammered.
"Here, let me." He took the pot from her hands, brushing her knuckles with his fingers. They stood there for a minute as the chemistry crackled between them. Then they both quickly turned away.
"Got any eggs?" David asked as he filled the pot with water. "I could just about kill for an omelet." Seeing Maddie's look, he added, "Don't worry, I'll make it."
He jerked his head in the direction of the living room. "Why don't you put on some logs in there while I take care of this? I still want to hear about Mr. Everett's slippers."
Later, they sat in front of the fire, their empty plates forgotten on the coffee table. David listened intently as Maddie told him how she had solved the case. He felt proud of how resourceful she had been, bribing the nursing home guard and pressing the police to redirect their investigation.
The fire burned a little lower, along with their conversation. Finally, silence fell between them, and they just looked at each other, green eyes into blue.
"David—" they spoke simultaneously.
"You go," he said.
"No, you," Maddie urged.
He reached up and brushed a strand of hair from her face. "I just wanted to say thanks. For everything."
His hand strayed from her shoulder to trace the line of her jaw. Maddie leaned in to his open palm and covered his hand with hers.
"Sorry to interrupt," came a voice out of the darkness. Then a slight figure stepped into the light reflected from the fire—a slight figure pointing a gun at them.
Maddie clutched David's arm. David shook his head in annoyance: why did this always happen, just when they were getting somewhere?
"Miss Everett?!" Maddie said in surprise.
"I've been watching you," she said to Maddie. She looked bedraggled and confused. "You stole my inheritance."
David rose, putting himself between Maddie and the gun. "Stole? She didn't steal anything."
"Yes, she did. She was the one who convinced the police that my father's death was a suicide. She told them that I saw my father walk. Now the life insurance company won't pay. My father wanted me to have that money—he wanted me to have it!"
Maddie came out from behind David. "But Miss Everett, we talked, remember? You agreed that we couldn't let someone go to jail for a murder he didn't commit. It wouldn't be right."
"Well, it's not right that I'm not getting that money," she insisted, almost childishly. Glancing around, she said, "I can tell by looking at this place that you must be doing all right. You can write me a check for 50,000 or he," she waved the gun at David, "can sign a confession, and I can get the money from the insurance company. Either way, I get what my father wanted me to have."
Miss Everett's voice shook slightly. "Or—I can kill you both." She trained the gun on David.
David sensed the woman's exhaustion, and her tenuous grasp on reality. He said, soothingly, "Now, we wouldn't want that, would we?" As he spoke, he signaled to Maddie to move around the couch; he stepped forward to block her movement from Miss Everett.
But the woman saw her creep away. She swung the gun at Maddie and fired. The bullet hit the glass coffee table, which exploded in every direction. Maddie screamed, "David!" and dove around the corner of the couch. David leapt over the space where the table had been to tackle Miss Everett.
Suddenly, she dropped the gun and fell backwards, clutching her arm. David landed with a thud at her feet. Her wrist, sliced by a shard of the coffee-table glass, dripped blood all over Maddie's Berber carpet.
David shut the front door as the red lights of the ambulance retreated down the driveway. Running his hand through his hair, he turned to Maddie.
"Where were we?" he asked.
They looked at each other for a long minute. All their fears, all the reasons why they shouldn't be together, hovered unspoken in the air between them.
Finally, David said with a grin, "About the garage…"
Maddie smiled slightly. "I thought that 'didn't happen'."
"Well, if what happened 'didn't happen,' maybe we should make sure it 'doesn't happen' again."
"Maybe you're right," said Maddie.
David gathered her in his arms. She slid a hand into his hair and pulled him in for a kiss. It was less earth-shattering than the garage kiss: softer, more exploratory. Still, they were both breathing harder when David finally lifted his head.
"I think it happened this time. "
"Where were you?" he asked, in mock frustration. "All right, let's take it from the top…"
Smirking, he pulled her closer to him. This time, their pulses quickened, their tongues mingled, their hands roamed. They were quickly leaving tenderness and approaching raw desire. Maddie felt her legs start to give way beneath her; she tilted her head back farther and David lowered his lips to her neck.
"Maybe we'd better stop before some other stuff 'doesn't happen'."
David looked up, his eyes glazed with wanting. Shaking his head, he laughed a little, and released her reluctantly. "Yeah, OK… Listen, Goldilocks, I better get my beauty sleep. Can I bunk in your guest room?"
"Oh, sure," said Maddie, feeling unaccountably disappointed.
He clasped her hands together, kissing the back of them. "You comin' up?"
"In a minute. I'll just get the lights."
David sauntered up the stairs in the preposterous tracksuit, grinning.
A few moments later, Maddie paused at his open door. He was already under the covers, the peach jacket discarded by the bed. "Have everything you need?" she asked.
"Yeah, almost," David looked at her wryly, his arms behind his head. With a heroic effort, he restrained himself from suggesting that they finish what they had started. He knew her: she would need a little time to process what had happened between them. And luckily, he wasn't going anywhere. Besides, he was totally, completely worn out.
Maddie blushed and looked down. She wanted so badly to walk over to the bed, grab his face, and kiss him until he begged for mercy. But she needed to think first—to make sure that this was the best thing, for their friendship and their business.
"Sleep well," she said.
"You too," he said.
"See you tomorrow," she said, stressing the last word.
"Tomorrow," he said.
Maddie found herself tossing and turning, unable to get to sleep despite her exhaustion. Thoughts went around and around in her head. She tried to picture herself and David, working together and sleeping together. What if it didn't work? What if it did? Would they still argue? Still slam doors? What about the staff? It seemed so complicated…
But it wasn't. It was simple. He cared about her. And he wanted her—the last half hour had proven that. She cared about him. And she wanted him, with a longing that was almost palpable.
Simple. So simple.
She threw off the bedclothes, not wanting to waste any more time. She practically ran to the guest room, ready to fling herself at him.
He was out cold, arms still above his head.
Maddie laughed quietly—at herself, at him, at their perpetual bad timing. She started to go back to her room.
Slowly, deliberately, she walked back into the guest room. She took off her robe and slid carefully in beside him. Looking down at his sleeping face, she touched his cheek lightly and whispered, "Tomorrow."
Then she snuggled down next to him, her head on his shoulder. Unseen by Maddie, David opened one eye; gently, he put his arm around her. She sighed. He smiled.
It was simple—this was where they belonged.